I received a call yesterday from an old friend who I haven't spoken to in more than 10 years. Now I know my first sentence is an oxymoron because how can one have a friend that you haven't spoken to in more than 10 years? Life is funny that way. Suffice it to say that if I needed anything from him, he would be there. With that said, he is an old friend.
We started in the nail business together in the mid-80's. He rose to stardom at his company in quick order. He wore perfect suits every day, had perfect manicured nails and brilliant white teeth. You would never seem him wearing a pair of jeans. While he had a sense of humor and could laugh, he was very serious about business and it became his life.
We met each other for dinner at trade shows, shot the bull on the phone during the week and we pushed each other for better deals and bigger orders. Back then everything was innovative and his ideas worked. My friend had the time of his life and was happy.
Then the company owner decided it was time to retire and the typical meltdown occurred when the owner sells and life at his company was never the same. He left and went to work at a couple other companies before settling down with his current company that he's been at for quite a long time.
During our conversation I asked him how things were at the company and life in general. He told me that 2009 was the year he needed change in his life and that he needs to be challenged. I asked him what he meant by that. He said that yes I am traveling, meeting customers and making numbers, but my company doesn't want to listen to any of my ideas and they want me doing no less or no more than what I have been doing for so long.
My response was if you have been doing this for so long, why the change? He shot back that he has been "comfortable" over the years but now comfort isn't what he's seeking. He wants another opportunity to experience the thrill of entrepreneurship and taking an idea to fruition and seeing it work. I asked him what brought this on.
A friend of his asked him when was the last time you saw the sun rise? Being a sailor and from California, my friend used to see the sun rise all the time. But sadly he responded to his friend that it's been more than 30 years. He took his friends advice and went to the beach at 6:00AM to see the sun rise. The sun's rays sparkling on the ocean and the peacefulness of it all brought the realization to his brain that it was time.
At 58, my friend is ready to make the change. I told him at 58, 68, or 78, it's never too late and there are countless stories of individuals who were more successful later in life than earlier in life. I told him all you need is an idea, perhaps a partner to excel at the things you don't and the will to take the risk in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
After nearly an hour on the phone we hung up. I know he thought about the conversation a long time afterward and is still thinking about it. At 58 or at any age, when is the right time to stop being comfortable and take risk knowing the consequences?
There is one thing I know. If America is going to get back on track, we need more people like my friend to get out of the comfort zone and make it happen. I hope he does just that.